THE introduction is much the longest chapter of this book, but it is worth reading to understand how Julia Mourant is using the words “soul” and “spiritual direction”. Her description of “soul” is very broad and suggests that people of any faith or only a spiritual longing would gain from reading further. This may be so, but I found the overall emphasis most relevant for people who are approaching spiritual direction for the first time, particularly if they have been advised or instructed to find a spiritual director.
The introduction is followed by 38 two- to four-page chapters on themes that we might want to explore with a spiritual director. These include hope, frustration, prayer, God, sleep, nature, employment, children, and ageing. In each chapter, there is some description of the kind of issues that readers might want to consider under each heading, followed by about four relevant questions, and finishing with some informal prayer sentences.
For example, the chapter on frustration starts: “Frustration is a part of life, it is hard to avoid and . . . [it reminds us] that we are not in control.” Mourant then outlines how people and/or organisations or systems may cause frustration. A patient spiritual director, she says, “will listen to our ranting and raving until we are able to begin to tune into the wisdom somewhere in the soul”.
She expands on what to expect from a spiritual director, and what might be needed to “cure” frustration. Her questions include “What strategies do I have for managing frustration so that it does not paralyse me?” and the prayer sentences include “May I find courage to smile at my desire to control.”
The chapters do not have to be read consecutively; so the suggestion is to pick a theme or two that resonate and use them as preparation for a conversation with a spiritual director. Whether new to spiritual direction or not, sometimes we need this kind of help to focus on what to bring to that conversation. Also, the confidence that as a spiritual director, Mourant has in spiritual directors is a reminder of what we try to live up to in that ministry.
Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.
Listening to Your Soul: A spiritual direction workbook
Canterbury Press £13.99
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